ACHE donates land for new no-kill animal shelter

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 2,861 views 

The Arkansas Colleges of Health Education announced Monday (Feb. 20) that it has donated five acres on the ACHE campus for a new facility for Fort Smith Animal Haven, formerly known as Kitties & Kanines Shelter Inc.

Fort Smith Animal Haven is in the planning stages to build a new 14,600-square-foot animal shelter on Roberts Boulevard in Chaffee Crossing, across from Graphic Packaging. Rett Howard with Risley Architects is designing the 14,600 square-foot purpose-built shelter space on Roberts Boulevard across from Graphic Packaging.

“As animal overpopulation becomes an issue in our city, it’s important we take action. We are fortunate to have a mission from the Board of Trustees that supports not only professional healthcare programs, but also improving the lives of others,” said Kyle Parker, president and CEO of ACHE. “Animals become family members and drop stress rates among their owners. The ACHE campus has over 540 acres and we are pleased to donate the five acres of land for such a great cause.”

Fort Smith Animal Haven’s website states that they are “committed to providing a safe haven and the best care for the lost and abandoned animals of Fort Smith with the intention of reuniting them with their family or placing them in a new, loving home.”

Organization President James Calvert said the shelter tries first to reunite found pets with their owners. If that isn’t possible, Calvert said dogs and cats are adopted into forever homes. The organization also has transport partnerships with several cities and will transfer adoptable pets to other parts of the country.

The facility at 4800 S. 46th St. has the ability to house 150 dogs and 50 cats. The facility at Chaffee Crossing will be able to house about 150-200 dogs and 50 cats. While the number of animals it is able to house won’t grow tremendously, Rick Bennett, director of operations, said the new facility will allow the shelter to better suit the needs of the dogs there.

“The facility will be built for this rather than being an office that was refitted to be a shelter. It will be better for the dogs to not be right next to each other in ways that cause stress,” he said.

Bennett added that the location at Chaffee Crossing would be good for both people and animals as it will give volunteers access to trails on the ACHE campus for walking the dogs.

“It’ll be good for fosters and volunteers. With the trails there, it can keep everyone exercising and moving,” Bennett said.

Calvert said long-term plans will have a second satellite shelter in a more centralized location in the city that will allow for easier pick-up for adoption, but the Chaffee Crossing location will be the main shelter.

“We will probably look for an existing building that we can make suit our needs,” Calvert said.

The organization is still in the planning stages of the project, Calvert and Bennett said. Because architectural plans and engineering studies have not been completed and the scope of work needed is still not known, neither had a cost estimate for the new building or an idea of when they could expect to move to the new location. Both said a capital campaign should be announced soon.

“We do fundraising though. We usually have restaurants who work with us one night each month, giving us a portion of the proceeds made that night. And we have calendars for sale,” Calvert said.

Fort Smith Animal Haven has 25 employees, including office personnel, kennel techs and vet techs, Bennett said. That number is expected to stay about the same in the new facility.

“But we always welcome volunteers,” Calvert said.

Fort Smith Animal Haven has had an agreement with the city of Fort Smith for shelter services since April 2022. The contract stipulates the city will reimburse the shelter in two ways. A monthly payment of $56,300 reimburses Fort Smith Animal Haven for fixed costs to operate the shelter, and a second monthly payment is based on a per-animal fee. The shelter is paid $45 the first day an animal is brought to the shelter by the city. This pays for tests and vaccinations. On days two through five, the city will pay $10 a day per animal the city takes to the shelter. The total day per animal for a full five days at the shelter is $85, the contract states.

Kitties & Kanines continues to serve as a low-cost veterinary clinic that provides low cost vaccinations on Wednesdays and low-cost spay and neutering.

ACHE was formed when Fort Smith-based Degen Foundation used part of $70 million from the sale of Sparks Health System in November 2009 to what was then Naples, Fla.-based Health Management Associates to build the Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine (ARCOM) at Chaffee Crossing. The $32.4 million college and its 103,000 square feet is now home to 600 medical students.

ACHE has since built a 66,000-square-foot College of Health Science building on the campus that is home to physical therapy and occupational therapy degree programs. The ACHE School of Physician Assistant Studies is under development.